An episode in life of an iron picker (Danis Tanovic, 2013): Slovenia

Reviewed by: Timothy Petersson     Viewed at AFI filmfestival 2013

An episode in the life of an iron picker directed by Danis Tanovic is a tragic story about the hardship of life in an remote village with a high poverty rate in Bosnia Herzegovina.

The film follows Nazif (Nazif Mujic), an unemployed worker getting by through iron picking and the impact of poverty on his family. One soon learns that his wife Senada (Senada Alimanovic) has a miscarriage however due to their socioeconomic status the family has no means to afford the surgery which she urgently needs, a compelling battle of time instigates and how family father Nazif takes great measures to assure her health.

Director Danis Tanovic certainly displays great criticism to the adhering healthcare system in Bosnia Herzegovina through his film, and one should consider this to be the foundation of the whole film.

Although scripted the entire film is filmed documentary style, handheld camera shots from beginning to end, and furthermore when looking at the editing, it’s continuity is very thick, meaning almost every action of the protagonist is captured. The lighting is solely natural throughout and additionally there is no soundtrack included to convey any mood, everything is left as it is, natural.

Presumably very conscious decisions made by Danis Tanovic as he entirely tries to convey the film as a documentary. There Is no doubt that he was not trying to render the film as extraordinarily tragic as he could have with the help of production design, cinematography that could have highlighted the dismay and tragedy even further or even by adding a pretentiously gloomy or sad soundtrack. He simply decided to depict the reality and he does so remarkably well.

“An episode in the life on an iron picker” is in regards to my own opinion a very powerful film, it does not adhere to conventional cinema in many ways and it shouldn’t.  I would even make the claim that if the director would have employed more conventional filmmaking techniques, more of everything, the film would have failed to convey the message the way it does now. By chance it would not have been as well conceived, and furthermore would have been lost in the ocean of films and maybe wouldn’t even have made it to the AFI film festival.

In short, it is a must watch, and particularly for fellow filmmakers as I thought it was very inspirational as it shows that making a powerful film with a micro-budget is in fact possible!

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